Why do I do this to myself? Perhaps just as pertinent, why do I inflict it on you? Sorry and all that but I just can't help myself. The fact is that I am utterly hooked on all this quantum physics stuff. I barely understand 0.2% of it, and even that comes and goes! Anyway, on this occasion you can blame Prof. Adam Frank writing on the subject at Aeon.
He sums up the headache-inducing problem thus:
When I was a young physics student I once asked a professor: ‘What’s an electron?’ His answer stunned me. ‘An electron,’ he said, ‘is that to which we attribute the properties of the electron.’ That vague, circular response was a long way from the dream that drove me into physics, a dream of theories that perfectly described reality. Like almost every student over the past 100 years, I was shocked by quantum mechanics, the physics of the micro-world. In place of a clear vision of little bits of matter that explain all the big things around us, quantum physics gives us a powerful yet seemly paradoxical calculus. With its emphasis on probability waves, essential uncertainties and experimenters disturbing the reality they seek to measure, quantum mechanics made imagining the stuff of the world as classical bits of matter (or miniature billiard balls) all but impossible.
Well that's bad enough if your interest lies in the nature and behaviour of 'billiard balls' but when you turn this school of thought to, er, well, thought, actually, by which I mean, the mind, then you could quickly find yourself confined in a cell wearing a straight-jacket!
It all comes back to this thing called 'The Hard Problem' which, put into simple - and I do mean really, really simple terms - attempts to explain consciousness, or how the mind, filled as it is with slippery thoughts, actually works. Scientists, being on the whole materialists by nature, insist that the mind works entirely according to the laws of physics. It's all just a matter of, well, matter, and of course, 'as any fule do no', matter behaves in mechanical ways which can be measured.
Except, it doesn't!
At the sub-atomic level 'matter' dances to its own infinite variety of possibilities. Any attempt to measure such particles, or quanta, actually interferes with their state of being. A perfect example of 'now ya sees it, now ya don't'! So what sort of a basis is that for determining reality?
Some neuroscientists think that they’re being precise and grounded by holding tightly to materialist credentials. Molecular biologists, geneticists, and many other types of researchers – as well as the nonscientist public – have been similarly drawn to materialism’s seeming finality. But this conviction is out of step with what we physicists know about the material world – or rather, what we don’t know.
Quite so because the real 'reality' is that 'real things' are made up of zillions of totally mad, unpredictable possibility of things each of which may be a 'thing', or merely, yet another zillion possibilities of things and if you so much as glance at them, let alone actually measure them, then you instantly lose about 99% of their 'reality' leaving you clutching at the equivalent of a grain of sand from the Sahara!
That graunching sound you just heard was my brain coming to an emergency halt so I will leave you to read Prof. Frank's excellent essay which, needless to say, explains things much more clearly than I can.